In pre-Covid times, it always amazed me that having eaten breakfast in England we can be enjoying a late lunch in Italy looking up to the sun and taking in the aromas of the streets: jasmine blossoms and linden trees fighting for our olfactory attention against smokey Vespas, buttery patisserie, melting chocolate, over-ripe peaches, the pizzeria with its ubiquitous perfume of woodsmoke and melting cheese and this traditional Tuscan chickpea pancake known as la cecìna (also known as farinata or socca in France) made with just four ingredients: gram flour, warm water, olive oil and salt. It has an unbelievable flavour, a crispy top and fluffy centre and is a perfect example of one of Italy’s lesser known street foods beloved by children as they return home from school. If you’re lucky, you may also come across a little bar offering small slices to savour your evening aperitivo. I often serve it alongside an Italian salad or with fried eggs and a tumble of well seasoned slow-roasted cherry tomatoes for a weekend brunch dish.
Makes two thick pancakes, enough for 4-8 people
250g gram (chickpea) flour
1 tsp of sea salt
800ml of wam water
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked (optional)
How I make it
Pass the flour through a fine sieve and place it into a large bowl. Mix in the salt and then add the water very slowly, whisking all the time in order to achieve an absolutely smooth consistency.
Cover with cling film and leave to ferment for at least five hours or overnight if possible.
Place a non-stick shallow 10-inch pie dish in an oven and heat to 225C. Remove the dish from the oven and add a generous glug of olive oil and, if using, the rosemary leaves. Return the dish to the oven and allow the leaves to sizzle in the oil for a couple of minutes.
Remove the dish, stir the batter to ensure that all the elements are mixed together again and quickly pour half of it into the dish to a thickness of about half a centimetre. Return it to the oven and bake for 15 minutes..
When the cecina, is golden, remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle over some sea salt flakes and more rosemary leaves (if using). Cut into slices and serve immediately.